Industry

Cleartrip pulls out of Internet.org

In a major win for the supporters of Net Neutrality, Cleartrip, Times Group and NDTV, on Wednesday, joined Flipkart in voicing support for the cause by opting out of Facebook-led Internet.org.

Internet.org is social networking site’s initiative to bring Internet services to areas that are still not connected in partnership with tech giants such as Samsung and Qualcomm. In India, Facebook partnered with Reliance Communications to provide free Internet access to over 30 websites, including Cleartrip.

While many net neutrality supporters have alleged that the initiative violates the principle of Net Neutrality, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has defended it saying Internet.org can coexist with Net Neutrality.

“At various points in time, we have been questioned about our stance on Net Neutrality. We’d like to take the opportunity today to clarify our stance and take a stand. Cleartrip has stood for the freedom of the Internet and voiced our support for Net Neutrality,” company’s Chief Marketing Officer Subramanya Sharma said in a blog.

He further explained there was no revenue arrangement between Cleartrip and Internet.org or any of its participants and the company genuinely believed it was contributing to a social cause.

“So while our original intent was noble, it is impossible to pretend there is no conflict of interest (both real and perceived) in our decision to be a participant in Internet.org. In the light of this, Cleartrip has withdrawn our association with and participation in Internet.org entirely,” Mr. Sharma said.

Likewise, Times Group has committed to withdraw from Internet.org.

It clarified that in the case of group’s properties such as TimeJobs and Maharashtra Times, where its competitors are not on zero-rate platforms, these properties will pull out of Internet.org.

As for the Times of India itself, the group commits to withdraw from Internet.org if its direct competitors also pull out.

NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy tweeted, “NDTV is committed to Net Neturality and is therefore exiting, and will not be part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative.”

Meanwhile, in an open question and answer on the website late on Tuesday night, Mr. Zuckerberg said “Internet.org can co-exist with Net Neutrality.”

Questioned about the issue, he said, “I think Net Neutrality is important to make sure network operators don’t discriminate and limit access to services people want to use, especially in countries where most people are online.”

“For people who are not on the internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all. That’s why programs such as Internet.org are important and can co-exist with Net Neutrality regulations,” he added.

While the debate has been going on at the global level for a long time, in India it was triggered when country’s largest operator Airtel in December 2014 announced plans to start charging customers for VoIP services, such as Skype and Viber.

Net neutrality

Net neutrality is a principle that says Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should treat all traffic and content on their networks equally.

How does net neutrality affect you?

The internet is now a level-playing field. Anybody can start up a website, stream music or use social media with the same amount of data that they have purchased with a particular ISP. But in the absence of neutrality, your ISP might favour certain websites over others for which you might have to pay extra. Website A might load at a faster speed than Website B because your ISP has a deal with Website A that Website B cannot afford. It’s like your electricity company charging you extra for using the washing machine, television and microwave oven above and beyond what you are already paying.



Key Players

  • » Internet Service Providers like Airtel, Vodaphone, Reliance...
  • » The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India which lays down the rules for telecom companies
  • » The Internet companies like Facebook, Google, whatsapp and other smaller startups
  • » You, the consumer

Why now?

Late last month, TRAI released a draft consultation paper seeking views from the industry and the general public on the need for regulations for over-the-top (OTT) players such as Whatsapp, Skype, Viber etc, security concerns and net neutrality. The objective of this consultation paper, the regulator said, was to analyse the implications of the growth of OTTs and consider whether or not changes were required in the current regulatory framework.

What is an OTT?

OTT or over-the-top refers to applications and services which are accessible over the internet and ride on operators’ networks offering internet access services. The best known examples of OTT are Skype, Viber, WhatsApp, e-commerce sites, Ola, Facebook messenger.




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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 4:12:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/cleartrip-stands-up-for-internetorg/article7106069.ece

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